This poker player from Moscow is now behind bars (for a mere four months) after he was found cheating casino rivals out of almost £60,000 in a single game of Texas Hold'em poker by using sleight of hand and ‘sandpaper' at an exclusive London casino.
Russian Valeriy Mikhaylets, age 57, pleaded guilty to one count of cheating at gambling at Southwark Crown Court on June 2, 2016. On the night of November 30 and December 1, 2014, he conned fellow players out of £57,025 at the Palm Beach casino in Mayfair, London.
Some of his techniques included using sleight of hand in order to hold cards back from previous hands, and then use them at a later time to his advantage. Also, he used sandpaper to smooth out the edges of some cards in an effort to ‘mark' them so he would be able to recognize them from afar.
However, he was already placed under suspicion for his shady activities in competitions at Palm Beach casino in the weeks prior to his winning the five-figure amount. When he returned to the casino on January 26, 2015, he was arrested for fraud - after the CCTVs were checked and when there was over £140,000 worth of winnings that had been paid into his account. Police found the playing cards, dice and the sandpaper he used in his con. They also found in his possession two casino membership cards - one named to him and another in someone else's name, as well as £2,000 in cash.
Mikhaylets, who works as a deputy director of a Moscow-based construction company, was imprisoned for four months after he admitted to cheating in poker.
Through a Russian translator, Mikhaylets nodded on his sentence and was led down to his cell.
Judge Alistair McCreath said to him, "Those who cheat at gambling as you did should, it seems to me, face two consequences of that. The first is that they should have a proportionate punishment for it and secondly that they should have their money taken from them. Not just the money they win but the money that was part and parcel of the whole gambling enterprise. You have been punished proportionately and you have been hit in your pocket which is precisely where you should be hit for committing this sort of financial crime."
Mikayhets, after being arrested in January 2015, skipped bail and fled Britain. On April 9, he was eventually held on a European arrest warrant for crossing from Russia to Finland and then later extradited to the UK where he was charged. It is expected that he will be deported back to Russia at the end of his sentence.
He was ordered to pay back a total of £193,718.75, with the breakdown: an £86,000 fine, £57,025 in compensation, a Deprivation Order of £50,000 and £893.75 in costs.
Detective Constable Mat Wake of the Met's Serious and Organised Crime Command, stated, "Valeriy Mikhaylets was an accomplished cheat who made just short of £60,000 profit in one poker game using sleight of hand. His sentence should act as a deterrent for those considering committing similar offences in London's casinos."